Atlas Paper Mills LLC

Some companies have only recently jumped on the green bandwagon, but Atlas Paper Mills LLC has long embraced sustainability practices. The Miami-based company has manufactured recycled, environmentally preferable tissue products since the early 1980s.

The products are made of recycled fiber and without the use of chlorine or chlorine derivatives. 

“Our company’s papermaking doesn’t use any chemicals that would be considered hazardous to the environment,” President and CEO Jim Brown asserts.

Founder Remberto Bastanzuri started Atlas in 1979, after years of work at a mill in Cuba, where he oversaw production of paper from sugar cane bagasse and recycled waste paper. When Bastanzuri came to Miami, he brought those practices to his company.

Over the years, Brown says, Atlas grew organically with existing customers but most recently with the acquisition of Accurate Paper Recycling, based in Tampa, Fla. “We will be well-situated to further our growth and continue to provide high-quality, recycled tissue products to our customers,” he says.

Today, Atlas operates as a portfolio company of Austin, Texas-based private equity firm Peak Rock Capital, and the company processes more than 50,000 tons of recycled paper annually. It also converts approximately 4 million cases of eco-friendly towels and tissue.

Atlas serves a diversified mix of customers, particularly in the janitorial and sanitation space, Brown says. However, “We’re experiencing some of our strongest growth in the value retail channel,” he states. “You’ve got to diversify into other areas to achieve sustainable growth, and we are strategically doing just that.” 

Brown explains that Atlas plans to start manufacturing products made from non-recycled materials. However, “That will not detract from the [green] legacy of the current facility in Miami,” he asserts.

Focused on Growth

Brown has worked in different aspects of the paper industry for his entire career. “My first job was in 1985 with Sonoco, making paper tubes and roll headers,” he recalls, noting that he managed several divisions for the company before leaving in 2012.

In 2013, Brown joined Atlas because of the tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities that it presented. “We are aggressively moving forward with our business plan and the positive impact for our company and our consumers is tangible.”

As president and CEO, Brown is focused on organic growth with Atlas’ existing customers as well as new ones with new products. “[We’re] thinking outside the box [with] new products for industries outside our historical core focus, and more niches,” he says.

Additionally, Atlas will be seeking more acquisitions, Brown explains. The company is actively pursuing target companies that would expand its geographical footprint and better diversify its current product offerings. 

“For instance, the acquisition of Accurate Paper this past July is a great example of Atlas’ efforts to expand its capabilities and accelerate growth through strategic add-on acquisitions,” he says. “Combining Atlas Paper’s leading paper-making capabilities with Accurate Paper’s high-quality source of supply will improve the already strong competitive position of the business and ensure continued superior service to Atlas Paper’s current and prospective customers.”

At the end of the day, the company’s growth strategy is built 100 percent around meeting clients’ needs, he states. 

Investing in Improvements

When it comes to manufacturing, Atlas does not focus on merely maintaining quality, Brown says. Instead, “We believe in continuously improving our process and constantly enhancing our products,” he declares.

One of Atlas’s top areas of focus, he notes, is better formation of its paper. “It all starts with the paper,” he asserts. “That sets the level of quality of the product from the beginning.”

Another area of focus for Atlas is continued investment in equipment. 

“You can enhance that equipment with a strong preventative maintenance process and new technology,” he says, noting that Atlas has invested heavily in paper equipment and converting lines over the past year.

Atlas also implemented lean manufacturing practices at the beginning of the year. “We’re applying lean tools such as 5S, waste reduction and quick changeover,” Brown says. “We have already witnessed a significant amount of waste and downtime reduction. At the same time, we are providing a safer and cleaner work environment for our team members in the operation.”

Seal of Approval

Atlas has earned and maintained certification from Green Seal, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainability. The seal “represents compliance with a rigorous set of criteria designed to achieve leadership levels in sustainability,” Green Seal says.

The status is “extremely difficult to get and extremely difficult to maintain,” Brown admits. “We would lose our certification if there was anything in our plant that wasn’t water soluble or approved by the Green Seal organization.

“Even the way that we dispose of our waste is in compliance with Green Seal certification,” he says. “Our whole Miami [location] is focused on sustainability and focused on Green Seal to enhance our reputation.”

Building the Business

Brown is proud of Atlas’ team. “Our people build this business,” he asserts. “It’s not Jim Brown, it’s not my operations manager, but it’s the people in the plant. 

“It’s our responsibility to coach them, support them and develop them,” he says, noting that its floor staff has made improvements in workplace housekeeping and safety. 

Atlas has managed this by enhancing its behavior-based safety processes and its energy-isolation processes. “I am certain it’s also [due] to leadership taking a greater interest and being more involved in changing the culture,” he says. “After all, the safety of our people is a top priority.”

Not Sitting Still

Brown sees growth ahead for Atlas. “We will not be sitting still,” he asserts. “Atlas’ future is very bright, with employee, operational and product expansion.”

The company will continue to focus on satisfying customers’ needs, and maintaining its high quality standards and lean manufacturing principles in its operations. “If you bring those facets together, you’re going to be creating a long-term, profitable company,” he asserts.

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